Here is a thing my heart wishes
the world had more of:
I heard it in the air of one night
when I listened to a mother
singing softly to a child
restless and angry in the darkness. Carl Sandburg, WindSong
Poetry helped me make sense of my teenage years. I still have my copy of Wind Song by Carl Sandburg along with Leanord Cohen’s Selected Poems and Rumi. If I open Wind Song too far or too fast the binder will snap. I would likely have been more alone, and my mind less connected to the metaphorical reality of life if it weren’t for my poets. Poems and metaphors make connections where there appears to be none. Metaphor and poetry don’t render us stuck on just one thing – one idea or perception, or relying on someone else’s idea; poetry lets us come to understand something in our own way.
“It is metaphors that carry us across (that is what the word ‘metaphor’ means) the implied gap between language and the world, and make what would otherwise be a hermetically sealed system of signs capable of meaning something in terms of embodied experience. They are how we understand everything.” McGilchrist, Iain. The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning. Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
To write a poem is to hold a special conversation with experience. A poem helps me be intimate with a world that doesn’t always see or understand me. I often recommend my writers, who struggle with a scene or narrative, to put it into verse. Poetry and metaphor create possibilities, opens secret doors and ultimately alters us. To limit ourselves through rules or dogma kills our ability to explore and create. We want to leave room for confusion and doubt in our explorations and discoveries. These edges of doubt and confusion lead to discoveries that are intimate and changing because we are able and willing to look further and deeper.
Yesterday I was snowed in like many Wisconsinites. Living on a corner lot gives me a long stretch of sidewalk to shovel. I intended to get a lot more accomplished yesterday than I did. But I wrote a poem. So, when I laid my head down to sleep I felt a day completed. I had made contact. I saw and experienced the magic every day offers us, often hidden behind the obvious.
A woman moved in across the street
whose son died six years ago, to have her
husband follow several months later.
Her lips quiver ever so slightly in the corners when she tells me this.
Her husband left her a snow blower
Big as a truck and with heated handles
We laughed as she helped me get out of my driveway
She moved here to be with her grandchildren.
I moved here to be with her
Though she didn’t know this
She who followed me here.
I moved here to be with
the queer couple across the street, who chat on the corner with me
on summer nights, to be with CJ, who lost her dog, cat and
housemate of thirty years, all within months of each other
She spends most of her winter indoors.
She lets me run my dog in her fenced-in back yard,
all the birds ignore my feeder for hers.
I moved here to be in walking distance of you
each of you
the couple who sit at the top of their cement steps watching the sky change
while they smoke their cigarettes. From here,
the coming night sky is always colored and fabled
the woman whose studio light glows through her window and out into the night. . . who came
over with banana bread and an invitation to her church
the day I moved in. Did you know my heart was breaking?
I moved here for her introvert husband who sells vinyl records. Who, without asking,
also plows my snow. He doesn’t wave back when I see his car pass by.
I moved here, to this corner lot, to what feels at times like a trailer park
high scaled with trees and gardens between us.
I moved here to find you, though you haven’t shown up yet
the one who will leave me your tools and storied shirts with that scent of home along
with your heated handled snow blower,
the one whom I miss.
You will arrive someday when I’ve forgotten all about
Before I’m ready to say good-bye. (For Denice, February 2019)